Weekly Opinion Editorial
AMBITION VS. COVETOUSNESS
by Steve Fair
Covetousness is defined as a strong desire to have that which belongs to another. In the Bible, it is listed as one of the most grievous sins. The opposite of covetousness is contentment in God. When covetousness for gain increases, contentment in God decreases. Covetousness is when we start to crave other things- usually those that belong to another- to satisfy the longings of our heart.
Ambition is a derivative of a Latin word, amberae, which means ‘both or double minded.’ It was used to describe those who were double-minded or two faced. It was applied to those who have absolutely no convictions, will would do or say anything to gain a selfish goal. It was the word used in ancient Rome to describe Roman politicians, who would do anything to get votes. Is ambition bad? Stephen Neill was a Scottish Anglican missionary to India in the twentieth century. He said this about ambition: “I am inclined to think that ambition in any ordinary sense of the term is nearly always sinful. “ Is he right? Is ambition to be avoided by Christians? In a very real sense, Christ came to save us from our ambition, but is all ambition wrong?
Ambition is defined by Webster as: a strong desire to do or achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. Synonyms of ambition are aspiration, yearning, longing, goal, aim, drive and force. Ambition is applauded in the corporate, business and political world. It is an attribute that most leaders in our world possess. They are driven, goal oriented individuals who are focused and goal oriented. Sad to say they are often willing to sacrifice their family and health to get to the next rung on the ladder. Blind ambition is when ambition prevents people from seeing what’s happening around them. Secular leaders often view blind ambition as a great trait to have. Blocking out what is happening around us in order to do what seems impossible sounds like intense focus, but is also a trait for those with blind ambition. But is ambition an attribute we should seek in a leader?
Steven J. Law of the C.S. Lewis Institute sums up how Christians should view ambition: “How do we purse goals in a God-honoring way? How can we be ambitious without it corroding our souls? The secret is summed up in how Paul used to describe ambition gone awry, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”
John MacArthur says the apostle Paul was perhaps the most ambitious man the world has ever seen. His drive to kill Christians before his conversion was only exceeded by his drive to further the gospel after his conversion. He made three very long missionary journeys, wrote half the New Testament, and spoke before thousands. “Paul had three dimensions of godly ambition- he looked upward toward a higher calling, he looked outward to understand this world is temporal, and lastly he was motivated by depth for an eternal purpose,” MacArthur said.
Thomas Brooks, a Puritan preacher said this about ambition: “Blind ambition has caused many people to sell their souls, compromise their convictions, if they ever had any, violate their beliefs, sacrifice their character and use everybody in their way. And it is true. Ambition is often associated with pride, with sort of evil aggression, with self-centeredness. Ambition is often associated with people that we call driven people, who are utterly insensitive to the people around them, or anything but selfless servant leaders. Ambition could even be associated with the idea of being careless. And it very often leaves principles lying in the dust.”
Amberae actually means in Latin(Ambition) to campaign for a promotion. Politicians, fast trackers and hard chargers in business come to mind when you frame the word in that context. Secular ambitious people seek power, position, fame, approval, and more money. They will lie, cheat, steal, backbite, and gossip to win elections or get promoted. Humility and integrity are not considered positive attributes for the blindly ambitious.There is a fine line between ambition and covetousness. Great leaders are not blindly ambitious and willing to do anything to get ahead. As you vote in the upcoming elections, seek candidates who are not covetous, but exhibit the attributes of the leaders Moses appointed in Exodus 18. Those leaders were able, truthful, God fearing and not covetous(blindly ambitious). Those are the kind of leaders we need in America.